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Solicitors warn Raab on compulsory mediation
Law Society of England and Wales HQ at Chancery Lane in London Pic: Shutterstock

27 Mar 2023 / family law Print

Solicitors warn Raab on compulsory mediation

The Law Society of England and Wales has warned that compulsory mediation could force the wrong people into a process, at the wrong time, with the wrong attitude.

The organisation was responding to British Government plans to get more family disputes resolved away from court.

Proposed reforms unveiled last week would make mediation mandatory for ‘low-level’ family-court cases.

Costs threat

The government would pay up to Stg £500 towards mediation in all cases, replacing the family-mediation voucher scheme, which is being extended until April 2025.

Courts could impose costs orders to hold people accountable if they do not make a “reasonable attempt” to mediate.

At present, according to the Law Society Gazette of England and Wales, parties are supposed to attend a mediation information and assessment meeting before making certain applications to the family court. In 2021-22, however, only one-third of eligible applicants attended such a meeting.

The solicitors’ body said that the most effective way to get couples into mediation was to provide them with early legal advice, which could provide a “reality check”, and confidence that mediation was in their best interests.

Early legal advice

Society president Lubna Shuja said: “The risk is that compulsory mediation could force the wrong people into the process, at the wrong time and with the wrong attitude for it to be effective. They need to be ready to mediate and have a full understanding of what the process will involve.”

While cases involving allegations or a history of domestic abuse would be excluded from compulsory mediation, the society warned that the mandatory mediation process might fail to recognise victims, and force them into a process that empowers their abuser.

Shuja said that early legal advice would help make sure that previously unidentified cases were not put forward for mandatory mediation.

The British Government's consultation also revealed that court fees, which are currently being reviewed, could rise.

Gazette Desk
Gazette.ie is the daily legal news site of the Law Society of Ireland